Ever heard of Nerf Wars? No, they're nothing like Star Wars. Nerf Wars are when teams of teens make a bracket (like you would in any sports tournament). The teams go against their assigned opponents with the goal of hitting more members of the opposing team with Nerf bullets than the opposing team hits of your team by the end of the assigned time. Shot players are out and can no longer shoot. Winning teams advance to the next bracket. It’s like an extended game of dodge ball, only with Nerf guns. Got it?
But as with most games, there’s a lot to be learned by the rules—life lessons. I’ve had the pleasure of spectating and strategizing with my daughter as she partook in this war with her friends, and I’ve learned a few strategies I want to apply to my daily life.
1. Be intentional
There is a thrill, an excitement, and a little bit of anxiety during Nerf Wars, because at any moment you could get shot. It’s all in fun—it’s just a game, so the stakes aren’t high, but still there’s that strange feeling that someone is after you. My daughter had to rethink her daily tasks. She had to be intentional about things she usually did by rote, things she took for granted. She asked if she could park in the garage instead of the driveway, so she could pull her car in, shut the garage door, and never be out in the open where she could get shot. She started conversations with people she hadn’t chatted with before, so she could decipher when and where her opponents were going. She planned new routes home from school in case she was being followed.
I, too, need to be more intentional. There are so many things I habitually do without even thinking about them. I eat the same things for breakfast, read the same blogs, and sit in the same seat at church. What if I approached each day fully aware and intent on expanding my horizons and picking the best routes for my daily life instead of the most familiar ones?
2. Never leave your wingman.
Just like in Top Gun, In Nerf Wars it’s not only important to be in constant communication with your teammates, it’s also critical to have someone with you—a wingman. Maybe your wingman will drive while you roll down the passenger window to shoot an opponent. Maybe, if they’re already out of the game, your wingman will act as a human shield to protect you from oncoming Nerf bullets. Maybe a wingman will help you find someone’s house, or just to keep you company or make you laugh while you’re on a stakeout.
I also need a wingman. We aren’t created to do life alone. We all need people to talk to, to laugh with, to plan with. Some days I need my friends and family to act as human shields, protecting me from unkind words or rejections from the world. I definitely need a small, close circle of people praying for and with me. I hope my wingmen and wingwomen and wingkids never leave my side. I’m reminded how important it is to stand by theirs
3. Stay in the light
I cracked up each night when my daughter called, asking me to turn on all the outside lights. When she pulled up to our house, she wanted a clear view—wanted to see if anyone was waiting to attack her.
I also need to stay in the light. I need to stay where I can see what’s going on, where I can tell the difference between right and wrong. There are places I’ve been and people I’ve been around, that when I’m there or with them, everything starts to get dim, maybe even dark. Where decisions are harder, where lines get blurry. You probably have your darker places, too. But Jesus is light. And when I stay grounded in Him, I can see what’s coming, and not be taken by surprise. I can see things for what they truly are, and act accordingly. When I shine His light on any situation it gets brighter and clearer, and I am immediately less concerned about the unknown.
I don’t know what battles you’re fighting today. I hope they’re just all fun and games, like Nerf Wars. But I know some days the battles are real. When they are, be intentional, keep a wingman close by, and stay in the marvelous light of Jesus.
“One of my friends posted a picture, and I’m 99% sure you and your husband are at the table behind them,” said an email from my friend, Amanda.
Crazy thing is, Amanda is in Germany.
Yes, my husband and I did go out to dinner. No, we did not take any selfies or post any pictures or updates about our date to anyone, not even a picture of the delicious pesto flatbread. But still, a friend of mine, on the other side of the world, was able to tell exactly what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with by scrolling through her Facebook feed.
Social media is fantastic…sometimes. I love seeing first day of school pictures and reading inspiring quotes and tweeting back and forth with one of my girlfriends about nail polish colors. Facebook is where I learned my niece had a soccer injury. Twitter is where I met my dear friend, Holly. I got an idea on yet another way to pair my favorite army jacket from Pinterest and viewed my friend’s new puppy for the first time via Instagram. But what about the stuff I don’t want to share, the stuff I don’t want the world to see?
We’re all hopefully savvy enough by now not to post things we don’t want to be made public. But what about what other people post?
What if I was with someone I shouldn’t have been, or been somewhere different than I had told people I was going, or doing something I’d regret or be ashamed of? What if that was what showed up in the background of a stranger’s photo? Who might see it? What might they think? How might it change things?
There was a show in the 70’s called Candid Camera that’s just made a comeback on TV Land. The premise is that a hidden video camera records random people reacting to premeditated Candid Camera stunts. A new episode has an actor reaching over and dunking their donut in the stranger’s coffee next to them at the lunch counter. There was a show with a public mailbox that threw letters back out at anyone trying to stuff their mail in the slot and an episode with a hundred dollar bill glued to the ground, so people would try to pick it up, but couldn’t. The funniest clips were shown once a week on prime time. All new clips start this month with a revamped Candid Camera.
What if everything we did and said this school year could get posted, tweeted or yikes, recorded and aired on TV? Anyone we might sneak out with, anything we might try even when we feel a nagging feeling inside -- like maybe it’s not such a good idea, could still get photographed for all the world to see, whether a friend takes a photo, or a random passerby, or an unfamiliar couple at a restaurant.
My email from Amanda made me laugh, but also startled me a bit.
Almost anyone can find out what I’m up to. With that in mind, I try to follow this rule -- think about two people I highly respect. Who are yours—can you picture them in your head? Would I want them to see what I’m about to do? Would I want them to know who I’m about to do it with? Would I want them to hear what I’m about to say? If not, I need to think again.
And at the end of the day, even if no on else ever finds out about what I did, I will always know I did it, and so will God. If there’s someone I respect, whose opinion I value most, that would be God. And God doesn’t need to hide a camera or scroll down His feed to catch me in the crazy antics and knee jerk reactions I make each day. He sees me make a wrong turn, burn the grilled cheese, wipe my hands on my jeans. He sees me at my best and at my worst. He sees us all day, every day, and loves us all the time, no matter how hard we try to shove that mail back in the slot, no matter what we wish we hadn’t done or are hoping to hide.
By now, most of us have learned to be wise about how we use social media, but remember there are candid cameras in virtually everyone’s pockets, and although my actions and your actions probably won’t be aired Tuesday at eight, it could be posted to thousands. And even if it’s never posted, God already knows. He’s there to help us make good decisions and be honest about who we are and who we’re with and what we do. And when we mess up, whether we’re caught on or off film, He loves us anyway.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me a great reason to smile.
What's the most surprising thing you've seen or learned on social media?
I’m on spring break in the mountains of North Carolina, and it’s gorgeous. Well, the mountains are spectacular. The weather? Not so much. Forty-four degrees and cloudy isn’t ideal for hiking and cookouts, but our family certainly isn’t going to let a few clouds stop us. So, today, we’re at the indoor pool, swimming and splashing while it rains outside.
At the edge of the indoor pool sits a hot tub, so close to the edge of the pool you can reach out and touch it. Directly above the hot tub is a sign that reads MUST BE 16 OR OLDER TO ENTER HOT TUB.
There are three children, clearly under sixteen, I’m pretty sure under the age of six, whose bodies are in the pool, but they’re dangling their arms into the warm, bubbly cauldron of the hot tub. It’s so tempting. I’m sure their bodies are chilled from the damp week, and how can a warm bubble bath possibly harm them?
I know these are just kids in swimsuits, hair slicked back from the water, but I see Eve staring at that shiny, juicy apple hanging from the limb of a tree.
I know. I know. You’re a great swimmer. You take really hot baths at home. You’ll just be in for a minute. Other kids are in there. You saw them. You eat fruit all the time. You’re allowed to eat every other fruit in the entire garden. What could it hurt? This once? You might really learn something, gain something from it. The pretty serpent said so.
Hot tubs lower your blood pressure, and when you’re under sixteen that can equate to throbbing headaches, dizziness, nausea, even passing out. Passing out in water equals bad. And, we all know what happened to Eve when she ate that ripe piece of fruit.
I’ve experienced Spring Break temptations shouting out from every poolside, restaurant, bar, cute boy, beach, street and hotel first hand. And you don’t have to be on spring break to be surrounded by temptations. They’re everywhere. So wherever you’re headed for spring break, or if you’re on a staycation, or if you’re just in your normal daily routine, you will have opportunities today and tomorrow and the day after that to make good and bad choices. They’ll look fun, interesting, safe enough, potentially exhilarating, dare I say tempting, and like they couldn’t possibly hurt you.
But as someone who’s regretfully eaten a couple of pieces of forbidden fruit in my past, I want to let you know, there isn’t a single dangling apple I’ve ever tasted that didn’t give me a terrible “stomachache” not to mention remorse. Rules exist for reasons. We’re not ready to drive until we’re 16 or drink alcohol until we’re 21. There are speed limits and number of people in a room limits and city limits all for good reasons, even when we can’t see what they are.
God is strong and He wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use, so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. Eph 6: 10-11
Look for the signs that say, “warning,” “attention,” “caution”. They aren’t always in print or mounted on walls, but they’re usually pretty visible. Listen to God’s voice. Do your temptations contradict His word, what He’s called you to do? If so, you might want to think twice before you dive in or reach up.
Where are you headed for Spring Break? Do you think you’ll run into any temptations?
In the beginning of The Lego Movie everyone in Bricksburg starts their day by reading identical instruction manuals. The instructions include things like getting dressed, doing your morning exercises, greeting your neighbors, and buying ridiculously expensive coffee. Sound familiar? Sounds like any one of any of our days, doesn’t it? And what’s so wrong with exercising and being kind and drinking Starbucks? (Inhale. Exhale. I’m not implying there’s anything wrong with drinking Starbucks. Stay with me.)
The main character of the movie, Emmett, is a regular, instruction reading, rule abiding kind of guy, completely unaware that anyone, anywhere would watch a different TV show than the one the government puts on continuous feed, “Where Are My Pants?” or groove to any song other than the ever popular President produced hit, “Everything is Awesome”.
Until he meets WildStyle.
WildStyle is a rebel with a cause, a Masterbuilder who can take any spare Lego brick and turn it into something amazing. She is brave and bold and has magenta and cyan streaks in her hair. And she is different.
How about you? Are you trekking through life, conforming to the instruction manual of your group of friends, class, team, club, neighborhood, family—going with the flow? Or do you have your own Wild Style?
Let’s face it, trends can be fun. I wear my leather riding boots almost daily, adore funky nail polish, and am right behind you in line ordering my nonfat mocha. I love watching the Academy Awards and seeing what all of the stars wore, how they did their hair and the fashions inspired by the hottest movies. There are some songs played on the radio, at halftime of the basketball game, at the mall that are so catchy, I can’t get them out of my head. And the newest iPhone is pretty cool, isn’t it?
But what about when the trends, when the general consensus goes against your instinct? True confessions? I look ghastly in the pastels that are rocking the runways this spring, so I stick to black and white. And, my feet get too cold in flats, so I don’t own a single pair. I watched the first five minutes of The Wolf of Wall Street and was so offended I left. It didn't work for me. At all. Even though it was nominated for the Oscar for best picture of the year. So I didn't stay.
And this is a good thing. Actually a great thing. We can’t all like the same things. Not only would that be a snooze fest, but by following the general consensus we can make poor decisions or miss out on choices that make more sense for us. God made each of us as individuals. Unique. With different tastes and styles and preferences and strengths and weaknesses. So whether you prefer indie music, or creating your own films, or sewing your own clothes, or sweet tea instead of coffee. Whether your hair has streaks or braids or feathers or is perfectly straightened with your iron each morning, just be you. Because God made you. And He loves to see you shine. God wants us to use our talents, flaunt our style. There is only one instruction manual He wants us to follow, and that’s the Bible.
What’s your inner Wild Style?
I’ve been playing various evolutions of Hide and Go Seek all of my life.
My kids and I played the other day. I was elected IT, of course. They hid. I didn’t see them. Any of them. And I have four kids. I ducked my head in tunnels and under picnic tables. I peered behind park benches and around the sculpture I love of a deconstructed bicycle. We’d set boundaries, so they couldn’t be too far. We’d played at this park hundreds of times, so I felt they must be safe. Right? Still, I felt momentary panic—that shuffle in my heart.
I put my hand over my eyes like a shield, as if it would give me x-ray vision. It didn’t. I took a deep yoga breath. I even opened the door to the port-a-potty, no lie. I’d do anything at this point to find them. I caved and started calling their names. One by one they revealed themselves. One was folded behind a trashcan. Another was crammed under bushes. A third splayed flat against a corn hole board. The last had been darting from spot to spot. But that anxiety of not being able to find them, unsettled me for a while.
My daughter’s asked, “What took you so long? I wondered where you were.” The tension goes both ways – not finding and not being found.
For the hider there’s the thrill of looking for the perfect hiding place and the pressure to find one before the IT gets to twenty. Finding a spot is exciting at first. The whole no-one-knows-where-I-am-freedom. And then, your mind wanders. And the peaceful imagining is blissful for a while. But eventually, there is that wonder—what if nobody finds me? What if they forget I was playing? Or can’t get the door behind me open? What if they think I went home? Or get distracted and move on to something else?
I’ve been playing various evolutions of Hide and Go Seek with God my whole life.
I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I’ve hidden from Him. And when I hide from my Father, it sometimes feels adventurous at first. There is a weird buzz of rebellion. But not for long. When I attempt to do something He hasn’t planned for me, or something I truly need Him for, but I’m trying to do it alone, it doesn’t take long before I find myself not as excited as I thought I would be. Not as fulfilled. And soon, I feel lacking, empty, excluded. I ache for Him to find me.
Gratefully, He is the ultimate IT. He always finds me. Sometimes He comes right up to the wall I’ve backed myself up against, or the façade I’m hiding behind. Other times, I realize how badly I need Him and crawl out of my hiding place, back to His open arms and the love He always offers.
But the best times of my life are when I seek Christ. Because when I seek Him, He’s always there. He never, ever hides from me. He simply loves me, because I am seeking Him.
Are you hiding or seeking today?
My book HOT is FREE on Kindle this week:
This is the main character's, Lindsey's, blog:
I haven’t been to youth group in a while.
There. I admitted it.
I feel so guilty about skipping; I’m not sure what to do, or how to get back into my routine.
I love youth group. I really do. Our youth pastor is young and goofy and totally gets it. The band rocks. I mean it. I would rather sink into the squishy giant pillows on the barn floor where we meet on Sunday nights and jam to that band than listen to my iPod! But here’s the deal. I’m in the middle of some stuff -- big crummy, confusing stuff.
My sister’s life could be an episode on 90210. My parents are all tuned into her station and her station only, even during commercial breaks. And my boyfriend, I mean my ex-boyfriend, Noah, well I still secretly adore him.
I’m still crazy about him because, mmmm, because Noah smells like minty gum, and his hand feels so warm and strong and safe when it holds my tiny hand. Did I mention he has these dark forest green eyes and he’s so tall I have to stand on my tippy toes to look into them? He’s also one of the kindest and sweetest people I know, and he completely understands me.
I broke up with him. I know. It sounds crazy. But, I had to for now. Things got too out of control, and we needed to slow down. I needed to slow down and get back to who I am, to who God made me to be. I know it’s the right thing, but it is so hard.
This brings me back to youth group, because Noah goes to youth group too. And the real reason I haven’t been going, is him. It’s one thing to see Noah across the cafeteria at school. But in the barn? It will be so awkward. I won’t know where to sit. My best friend, Emma, and I used to always sit with him and his friends. Emma hasn’t been going to youth group either, which has made it easier to skip. All Noah’s friends will make comments under their breaths. The people who don’t know we broke up will ask why we’re not sitting together. And I’ll have to look at him and not feel his warm leg next to my leg and not smell him or hear his smooth, soothing voice. I’m not ready.
The voice in my head, which I know is God, says it’s time. He says he’ll be there for me.
Really? How cool is that? But is that enough God?
There will be a whole lot of other people there too. And they’ll make it hard. He says to remember that youth group isn’t about who sits next to who or who wears what but about getting closer to Him. He says His grace is enough.
Right. I knew that. Sometimes, I just forget. Okay, I just need to stay focused on God. Easier said than done, but possible. With God’s grace I can do this. I think I’ll call Emma and try to con her into going with me.
2 Corinthians 12:8 My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
When was the last time you played tag?
I played today, and I’ve decided it is, perhaps, the all time perfect game.
Tag is exhilarating and makes all of the players laugh out loud. Even more so, I believe tag teaches us a lot about life.
First off, tag is for everyone. You can be five or fifteen or twenty-five or fifty-five or even eighty-five rolling around full speed in a wheelchair and be part of the game. You can have on Coach riding boots or Wal-Mart sneakers to play. You can be an Accounting major or an Asian studies major or be a Major in the Army or have dreams of being in the major leagues or a majorette or in need of a major change in life and be on equal footing with the other players. Life should be like that.
Secondly, the rules are simple:
· One person is IT.
· The person who is IT tries to tag any of the other players.
· When they accomplish this, the person they tag becomes the new IT.
Period. End of story. The rules don’t change for different players. You don’t have to turn to page three of the directions to see what you do when you land on a question mark or how to get unstuck from the Molasses Swamp or when you get to roll again. You are either being chased or chasing. That’s it. In life we should try to keep things simple. Of course, that’s not always possible. Some things in life are so complicated, they make my head spin. But when possible, don’t invent elaborate bases and out of bounds and no tag backs. Instead, run fast. Be sharp. Look out for your opponents and your playmates (it’s critical to know who is IT). Focus on playing your best. Sometimes that means letting someone who’s been IT for too long tag you or focusing on tagging someone who truly wants a turn at being IT. Tag and life are not all about “winning”. And when your role changes -- from chaser to chasee or child to parent or sophomore to senior -- change with it.
Next, tag is exhilarating. There is a thrill to being chased. There is a thrill to chasing. That’s why the dating scene is so intoxicating. It’s a sense of accomplishment when you finally tag someone – instant gratification. It’s a sense of adventure when you get tagged – instant change up in routine. Find the thrill in life from all angles – being chased, chasing, being IT, getting caught, not being IT. They’re all a blast. Savor the spot you’re in. Do your best at it. Enjoy the moment, the sunny day you’re running around the park, without worrying about tomorrow’s stormy forecast, and you’re likely to land on your feet.
Have fun. When I played tag yesterday all of us were laughing. We giggled when we came out of the end of a slide and the IT was waiting for us and the IT was giggling too. We laughed when nobody knew who IT was or where IT was. It made us chuckle when IT reached to tag someone and missed. We chortled at just the sheer glee of the game. We should embrace life with that much enthusiasm and joy.
Lastly, tag can be played anywhere, anytime. You can play tag in a park, in your yard, at the sidelines of your sisters’ soccer game or the hallways of your boyfriend’s hockey practice or in your best friend’s basement. Tag can last for a few minutes or for a few hours or until your playmates have to go home.
Everywhere you go, every day of your life, look for a chance to smile, to laugh, and to run until your heart pounds. Don’t save it for the gym or the movie theatre or when you’re trying to impress someone or for special occasions. Spread your arms out wide, run at full speed ahead and reach out for a friend.
“Tag! You’re IT!”
Laura L. Smith